Our Backyard Flock

Our Backyard Flock

The cochins out on a foraging expedition in early Spring 2011


Raising chickens always seemed like a missing piece of the puzzle in the garden. I wanted chickens for the benefit of chemical-free weed and bug control, natural manufacture of fertilizer and compost additive, as well as healthy organic eggs for our family.  I spent about 4 years learning as much as I could about chickens before finally deciding to take the plunge at the end of 2008. In late 2009, I began blogging about our home improvements and edible garden, and especially about incorporating my chickens into the scheme of things. Although learning how to keep happy chickens and a beautiful, productive garden was a challenge at first, having them has been a rewarding experience for myself and family.  Not everything about keeping urban chickens is as idyllic as the magazines describe and I like posting what I have learned so others might avoid making some of the same mistakes I made when I started out.

Initially we had a large fowl (LF) flock, including Leghorn hybrid, Buff Orpington, Plymouth Barred Rock, Ameraucana, Easter Egger, Black Australorp, Black Jersey Giant, Red Star, and Speckled Sussex.  We currently keep mainly bantam breeds, with Cochins being my favorite.  Cochins are quiet, except when laying, extremely gentle, don’t mind confinement too much, and love human attention. I also keep Silkies and bantam brahmas.  Our chickens typically get out to forage for 1/2 hour to a couple of hours a day, or sometimes longer while I work in the yard.  For the majority of the day, they are confined to the coop and run.

We have raised our chickens on organic feeds from a variety of manufacturers, depending on what the feed stores are currently carrying, including O.H. Kruse, Modesto Milling, Scratch and Peck, and Purina Organic.  The chickens also get organic treats like oats, sunflower seeds, and flax seed.  They also get lots of fruits and veggies from our organic veggie garden and micro-orchard.

Our flock never produces enough surplus eggs to sell to strangers, however, we have a few friends and neighbors that get organic eggs from us.

A few times a year we have chicks around because my favorite breed, bantam Cochin, is generally a “broody” breed.  Broody means they like to sit on eggs and raise baby chicks, and I often do let the hens have their way.  I am crazy about baby chicks, as demonstrated by my many posts about them.  Since our yard and coop are small, I often have surplus chicks and pullets available when we have a brood, but never more than a few at a time.

I am not a professional chicken breeder, just a hobbyist, nor do I keep a rooster for fertilizing our hens’ eggs.  Instead, I purchase fertile eggs or day old chicks from others.  When I sell them later on, I usually give them away at cost, whatever it was to raise both pullets and cockerels to that age. If it cost me $10 per chick in expenses to 8 weeks, and I ended up 3 males and 2 females, the females would go for $25 each and the males would be free. I usually end up giving the boys away since most urban chickens keepers like me can’t keep the males.  Most of them go to large horse properties in the Antelope Valley, Riverside, or the San Bernadino area, or a couple of the feed stores sometimes will take them.  Raising chicks is definitively not any kind of profitable business, just one small aspect of my homesteading hobby.

I usually keep my flock around 3 or 4 hens, so most of the time, I don’t have any extra chickens to sell.  FYI, I don’t ever ship chickens. 


2 thoughts on “Our Backyard Flock

  1. It’s wonderful that you’re able to raise chickens in a city lot. I’ve wanted to do that!
    I use commercial chicken manure as fertilizer, so good to have a supply right at home.
    How do you collect and ‘cure’ the poop before using it as fertilizer?

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